SONGSOPTOK: What, in your experience, is the status of a girl child in the family? Is she treated in the same way as the male child? If not, what are the major differences in treatment?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO: I was reared by women; strong women who did not depend on men for a living.  My aunts are spinsters and my mother worked abroad because we were a “broken family”.  As a girl, I was taught to do housework, even butchering of chickens and ducks which my brother could not do. Although, it seemed that there was an equal treatment at home, I noticed that my eldest brother always got what he wanted be it in toys or when going out. My grandmother and aunt admonished me not to go “here” or “there” because I am a girl. I played rough and climbing trees was one of those activities. My grandfather would spank me whenever I climbed the trees! Then, my uncle who lives in Canada sent my brother a robot, while I got a doll. I liked the robot more but because I am a girl I had to make do with dolls!

SONGSOPTOK: Does the girl child have equal access to education in your country irrespective of economic or social status? What are the main factors that affect the equality or inequality of access to education?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  In the Philippines there are equal opportunities for girls and boys to education as we Filipinos value education so much. However, stereotyping is still prevalent in universities. For example, more males study engineering or hard sciences than females. In the report of the United Nations in SY 2012-2013, there were more females (96.3 percent in elementary and 70 percent in secondary NER) than males (94.2 percent in elementary and 59.9 percent in secondary) who had access to basic education. Moreover, more females (78.2 percent elementary and 79.9 percent secondary) than males (69.6 percent elementary and 69.8 percent secondary) completed their basic education. In SY 2012-2013, there were more females (96.3 percent in elementary and 70 percent in secondary NER) than males (94.2 percent in elementary and 59.9 percent in secondary) that had access to basic education. Moreover, more females (78.2 percent elementary and 79.9 percent secondary) than males (69.6 percent elementary and 69.8 percent secondary) completed their basic education.

Although more females finished basic education it is still a question whether there would be more females who could finish their college degrees or the kinds of jobs they would have after finishing their degrees.

In the latest survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2014 says that more women, 50.5% than men 49.5% work abroad due to various reasons such as inadequate work and salary in the Philippines even if they are professionals.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that women, contrary to men, always have to make a choice between home life and professional career? Is it fair either on men or women? What is your personal experience?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  In my research entitled Motherhood: Different Voices, Different Choices published by the journal of the Faculty of Humanities, Kasetsart University in Thailand, I found out that among my 7 respondents, all middle class from different Asian countries, chose home and when their children were old enough to be brought to Day Care Centers went back to work. Some of them were helped by their mothers in taking care of the babies or the children. In my personal experience, I was a home based worker, a writer, so I did not have to go out. Generally, in Asian countries men are the “breadwinners” thus, they have to choose advancement in professional careers rather than stay at home, which is very stereotypical. Nowadays, however, those who can afford to employ a nanny continue their careers.

SONGSOPTOK: Detailed studies have shown that there are very few women across the world who occupies really top positions both in the private and public sectors. How do you explain this fact? Do you think that women are less qualified to hold top jobs or are there other explanatory factors?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  Breaking the glass ceiling has been the aim of women. Many have done this but still because of the stereotype that women are not firm in making decisions, their promotions are usually stalled no matter how qualified they are; also because of the belief that they would get pregnant and would eventually leave jobs to take care of the family. However, as more and more women opt for late marriage and continue their education, I think, in the near future, women could finally break the glass ceiling.

SONGSOPTOK:  Even in the advanced countries in the world, there is a large disparity between the number of men and women in political parties resulting in an under-representation of women in governments and elected councils. Do you agree with this point of view? What in your opinion are the main reasons?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  In the Philippines, more men are in the seat of power, like mayors, senators, representatives. Although there are women in power they are just the” extension of the male power” usually because they are wives of those who are already in power. The under-representation of women in political parties is also linked to the notion that a woman’s place is at home and not in the political arena. Aside from that, it is believed that women are easily influenced and use emotions rather than rational thinking. Again, stereotyping.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think a larger participation and presence of women in all domains – economic, social and political- are actually required? Would it substantially improve the nature and quality of services and make the society a better place?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  Educate a woman and you educate the whole family. The world needs more women to participate in all aspects of the society. We have to fight for equality in all domains. Women understand the world better than men because usually women and girls are always the victims of harassments, and poverty. Women must be empowered not because they are powerless, but because they are humans.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that for women the choice of a career and that of a family life with children should be mutually exclusive? Do you think that women who opt for both are not totally successful in either sphere? What is your own experience?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  Again as I cite my research on this, the women I interviewed were both successful mothers and professionals. Rearing a family is not a gender role exclusively for women. It must be mutually shared by both partners. In my experience, both of us are successful in our own rights. I, as a mother and a writer and my husband as a father and a teacher. Though, I really opted to stay at home because I was a home based worker before and I breastfed all my kids. Still, whenever I had to go abroad for international conferences, my husband supported me and took care of our two toddlers.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your opinion about the role played by the mother in bringing up children? Do you think that mothers should take more responsibility for the well-being of the children more than the father given that other than breast feeding, almost every other responsibility can be equally shared between the parents? Please explain your answer.

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  No. Having a family is shared obligations and responsibilities. Parents must have equal responsibility on the disciplining of the children. Although breastfeeding is a sex-role, it does not mean that the father cannot bathe the babies or take care of them. Maybe it varies from culture to culture, but in my experience, it was my husband who bathed our three children when they were babies because I was too afraid to hold them.

SONGSOPTOK: “Women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling” said famous American writer Louisa M Alcott. Do you agree? What, in your perception, is the kingdom given to women?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  When you say kingdom, you are already perpetuating patriarchy. In the kingdom there is a hierarchy, thus, women and children are reduced as subordinates instead of being partners for the common good of the families.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you agree that professional women have to work at least twice as hard as men to attain credibility in her chosen career? What is your personal experience? Do you think that it is a rule rather than an exception? What in your opinion needs to be done to bring greater equality in the workplace?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO: Somehow, it is true because of the treatment of the society to the women as weak thus, they are forced to work doubly hard to prove themselves that they can do better than their male counterparts. But for me, this is not productive. This causes rift, jealousy and competition among men and women. Equality in the workplace is having the same responsibilities which depend on the positions of both workers.

SONGSOPTOK: Women who choose to be ‘homemakers’ often feel that they are not respected by society in general since they do not go out to earn money, though they probably have to work harder and for longer hours. Would you agree? What needs to be done to really valorize the homemakers?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  When the women or the mothers stop working at home, the economy would surely collapse, as the author, Robert L. Price said in his book Things You Never Knew or Were Told not to Believe. Whether it is paid or not, work is work, be it outside or at home. That’s why many are calling to the governments to include housework as a contributing factor in the economic development. Mothers staying at home must be given compensation by the government because they are not only working at home but also rearing the “future” of the world.

SONGSOPTOK: On the other hand, working women very often have to juggle their professional and personal lives to be perfect both at home and at the workplace. What is your personal experience? Do you think that a woman really have to be perfect in both spheres or is this idea self-imposed? In your society, what is expected of working women?

EUNICE BARBARA NOVIO:  Because the society expect the women to be always in charge of the family, it became deeply ingrained into every woman’s mind that they have to be perfect in both spheres. Again, we are put inside the box and it is up to us to get out of it. In the Philippines, a highly patriarchal society, women are still expected to prepare dinner, take care of the kids etc, even though both (men and women) work. For me, a staunch and rabid feminist, and my husband being a feminist too, we divide our work depending on our abilities and availability. I am not a good cook, so the husband cooks, simple things like that. Women should stop imposing on themselves that they are just created to become homemakers and wives. Women are created to be partners of men for the development of the society; with the same dignity and rights.

She has a Master's Degree in Women and Development at the University of the Philippines under the Women Leadership Scholarship of Channel Foundation.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

Aparajita Sen:
Editor, Songsoptok.)


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